Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Ex-Yahoos Getting Downloaded by PE Firms and Others on Possible Deals

One of Yahoo’s biggest problems — brain drain — has turned out to be an asset for private equity firms and other players interested in figuring out their best moves related to the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

A plethora of ex-Yahoos, including many former top execs, are getting buttonholed by those who want to know more about the inner workings of the company that might not be obvious from its copious financial data available publicly.

That includes former Americas head Hilary Schneider, who has a longer-term consulting gig with TPG Capital, one of the several PE firms that has recently signed a non-disclosure agreement with Yahoo; former COO and President Sue Decker, who has had a longtime informal relationship with Blackstone, which has not signed the NDA and has been in talks with Yahoo’s Asian partners, China’s Alibaba Group and Japan’s SoftBank; and even former CEO Carol Bartz, who sources say has also been contacted to get her insights.

She is one of many in that regard, in a large pool of former Yahoos, such as: LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who had run Yahoo’s media efforts; Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig, former Yahoo COO; SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, who ran swathes of Yahoo’s entertainment properties; Criteo CEO Greg Coleman, former Yahoo sales head; former CEO Terry Semel, who is now an investor; former communications exec Brad Garlinghouse, who is now at AOL; and Demand Media Chief Revenue Officer Joanne Bradford, who also was a top Yahoo advertising exec.

Not all are cooperating with the requests for a chitchat about Yahoo, but there is much incoming interest in ex-Yahoos and what they might know.

There’s lots more where that came from, from all parts and all levels of Yahoo, given the breadth of the exes now doing very well — thank you very much — throughout the tech and media industries.

Thus, calls from PE firms, from Silver Lake to Bain Capital to Providence Equity Partners, as well as interest from major and majorly irritated shareholders, such as activist hedge fund investor Dan Loeb.

It’s a smart idea to tap this rich vein of information, as all contemplate possible multi-billion-dollar investments.

While some of these execs have not worked at Yahoo in many years, all have significant knowledge about the challenges and also the culture that cannot be gleaned from spreadsheets.

They also know a lot about the internal politics and personalities of the existing inside players, too. More importantly, several were involved in similar previous major business decisions at Yahoo.

Decker, for example, was a key exec in the Yahoo takeover attempt by Microsoft several years ago; Schneider and Bartz were deeply involved in striking the advertising and search partnership with Microsoft.

“Between everyone, it’s a good way to figure out where all the bodies are buried,” said one person close to the situation. “And there are a lot of bodies.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald